My name is Abigail Snyder and I’m a local (Roanoke, VA) elite mountain bike racer. Rather than riding under the banner of an established team, most of whom are based in Colorado or California, I am choosing to develop my own individual program (Ride Fierce Racing) for two reasons: On one level, I want the flexibility to pursue events that will support my racing and performance goals. But simultaneously, I want to build relationships with companies whose products and values I truly believe in. I moved to Roanoke, Virginia last year for mountain biking. In partnering with sponsors, I want to be a key part in highlighting local businesses and organizations in a way that can bring attention to Roanoke and the Virginia Blue Ridge region as a cycling destination.
As I travel regionally, nationally, and internationally for racing over the next two seasons, my goal in racing is twofold. On a performance level, my goal is to qualify for the 2024 Marathon Mountain Bike World Championships to be held in Snowshoe, WV (to do this, I will be focusing on a mixture of regional, national, and international events over the coming season). On an ambassador/advocate level, I want to introduce people to the Roanoke, Virginia region as the mountain biking capital of the East…and just an amazing place to come ride a bike and hang out for awhile.
I am a brand ambassador for the following companies, many of whom provide key products to support my racing and training:
- Osmo Nutrition
- Kitsbow Apparel
- Handup Gloves
- Starlight Apparel
- Untapped Maple
- Spring Energy
- Rock n’ Roll Lubricants
- Specialized Bicycles
- Honey Stinger
- Wolftooth Components
- Smith Optics
- Go Pro
- Clam Jam
- Pro Tec Athletics
Interested in sponsorship? See my athlete portfolio here.
Why Mountain Biking?
I grew up riding a bike, but certainly not competitively. My parents took us on rides to go get ice cream as a family, or to Pizza Hut for lunch. My dad’s background was in touring by bike around Prince Edward Island, and so it was the long, slow miles that formed my introduction to cycling. After completing my first century at age 11, I was done. The bikes were put away in the barn and left to gather dust while I spent my middle and high school years focusing on riding and training horses.
After college, as I was finishing up my masters degree, I rediscovered cycling, this time in the form of triathlons. I had been working at a local pool as a lifeguard in order to help pay for school, and occasionally pulling my bike out to ride to and from work. At some point, someone asked me to try a triathlon and I said yes. I eventually did a grand total of three sprint triathlons, never really training for any of them, and consistently getting in the top 5 – swimming and cycling were my strong points, though never strong enough to truly make up for my horribly slow running.
Cycling became more and more intriguing to me, and I began riding more and more frequently. Between 2010 and 2012, I purchased an “upgrade” from Craigslist, a cobbled-together aluminum road bike frame with flat bars and mountain bike-style shifters. Oh yes, and aero bars. I purchased my first set of clipless shoes and pedals and registered for RAIN (Ride Across INdiana). Sometime during those two years, I completed RAIN, rode the Hilly Hundred with my dad, and logged an improbable number of miles on my bike. I also bought a mountain bike: a Specialized Rockhopper with mechanical disc brakes. My brother and I explored the local mountain bike trails, and I even ventured onto some of the mountain bike trails at Liberty University in Virginia during one of my classes there, but I was in no way a “mountain biker.” I just happened to own a mountain bike.
Eventually, in March of 2013, I started working part-time at Summit City Bicycles & Fitness. I still have the vivid memory of going to Summit City Bicycles to pick out my first (and only) new bike as a child, a 24″ mountain bike (that was destined only to be ridden on the road). My new status as a bike shop employee opened my eyes to the world of cycling–and the beauty of carbon. I purchased my first real road bike, a Specialized Tarmac Comp that spring and signed up for my first crit.
Then I moved to Tanzania. I packed up my Rockhopper and took it with me as a mode of transportation once I arrived, and hung up my Tarmac in my parent’s garage. For the next four years, I rode my Rockhopper around the streets (often unpaved) of Tanzania, then came home each summer to ride my Tarmac with my co-workers at Summit City. At some point, I got brave enough to try and hang on with the Saturday morning shop ride, and started to realize that I was at least somewhat strong and fast for the little bit of riding I did each year. In 2016, this was especially clear, as I had broken my leg over spring break, and had no more than six miles of riding in before moving back to Indiana for the summer. Less than a week later, I had been coerced into doing both the Saturday morning shop ride (40 miles) and a century the next day. I completed both, then played in a beach volleyball tournament that evening.
In 2017, I moved home to Indiana indefinitely, with the intent of accompanying my dad on his lifelong dream of riding a bike across the U.S. in the spring of 2018. I started working full time at Summit City, and quickly got talked into doing some bike racing. I did my very first mountain bike race that summer and never looked back. Though I dabbled in a bit of cyclocross and road racing, mountain bike racing was my “first love” and quickly became my focus.
By the fall of 2018, I decided to start working with a coach and see what it would look like to go “full send” into mountain bike racing for a year, with the hopes of potentially earning my pro card. I quickly upgraded from Cat 3, to Cat 2, and then to Cat 1, even entering a few Pro/Open races as opportunity allowed. In the fall of 2019, I was approved for my Pro Card.
Since I first began exploring the “mountain biking life” in 2018, my identity as a mountain biker and athlete has slowly evolved into a firm sense of truly being a professional athlete. There were long months (years?) of feeling like an imposter, seasons of doubt and fear, and even the occasional temper tantrum where I just wanted to throw my bike down and quit. But for all of the “trials,” mountain biking has taught me the value of community and welcoming others into this FUN we call cycling. It has taught me to persevere, to try and fail and try again, and to push into the pain. It has brought incredible people into my life and taken me to some of America’s most beautiful places.
Competing as a pro athlete while maintaining a full-time career as a middle school teacher requires a tremendous amount of dedication, passion, and focus. My unique position as an athlete and a teacher allows me to connect with a broad audience, sharing lessons between the trail and the classroom. Each school year, I enjoy the chance to engage my middle school students in exercises that teach the principles of having a growth mindset, while sharing with them my own failures and lessons in developing a growth mindset as a mountain biker.
On the top tube of each of my bikes is a sticker that says “Ride Fierce.” To me, “Ride Fierce” is the image of a cheetah: breathtakingly beautiful, but strong, powerful, and dangerous. I want my riding (and life) to be characterized by beauty: the kindness, grace, compassion, humility, and joy that welcomes people to my community and my sport. But I also want to be strong, powerful, and dangerous competitor and rider. In the words of Erin Van Vuren, “I will not be another flower, picked for my beauty and left to die. I will be wild, difficult to find, and impossible to forget.”